It is my pleasure to announce that the 2016 Epicski Gathering will be in Aspen, Colorado, Wednesday February 3 through Tuesday February 9.
What is a Gathering?
We periodically gather to ski and socialize together. We see old friends and meet new ones. A few members with local knowledge volunteer to show us their mountain. All ability levels are welcome. Most years we have one big, general gathering and several smaller regional ones. Aspen is the big one this year. The attendees at one gathering vote where to have the next one and select someone to run it – that’s me, your rookie Gathermeister.
Aspen is wonderful place, and it’s never had a Gathering.
Aspen (http://www.aspensnowmass.com) includes four separate areas: Aspen Highlands, Snowmass, and Aspen Mountain [Ajax] (which we are planning to ski), and Buttermilk (which we probably won’t get to, but has world-class terrain parks).
a true “bucket list” experience. Besides that we have Deep Temerity, a whole chair full of steeps, Olympic Bowl, and some odds and ends on the lower mountain. Snowmass has The Cirque (especially the chute entrances on the side) and Hanging Valley, (including challenges such as Roberto's and Possible). I don’t know Ajax as well, but I know I skied some good stuff there and we are sure to find more.
Aspen has good tree skiing. Both steep and not-so-steep glades, at all three mountains. The Hanging Valley and Frog Pond Glades in particular stand out in my memory.
Aspen has beautiful bumps. There must be a lot of good skiers, because the bumps are round with flowing lines. Reider’s and the surrounding runs at Snowmass have a long, consistent pitch. Scarlett’s Run at Highlands and Silver Queen at Ajax are other great bump runs.
Aspen has intermediate terrain. The Big Burn at Snowmass is one of the best intermediate areas anywhere. It’s long, open, and beautiful. Longshot is a great introduction to hiking for intermediates, with the payoff of a run that goes on forever. In spite of the fearsome reputation of the bowl, Highlands has some excellent intermediate cruisers too. Ruthie’s at Ajax is world-famous.
Aspen is not crowded. Not even at peak times, and we are going off-peak.
Aspen has food. It has some of the best on-mountain food anywhere. The hand-tossed pizza I had at the top of Ajax was spectacular. The off-mountain restaurants are great, at a variety of levels all the way up to true special occasion fine dining.
Aspen has nightlife. That’s what I’ve been told, anyway. I’m there to ski.
You don’t need a car at Aspen. Frequent free buses connect the 4 mountains and the town of Aspen. There are good connections to buses going downvalley to Basalt, Carbondale, and even further. (http://www.rfta.com). I'll show how to find bus stops on Google Maps in a later post. There is also a separate free shuttle within Snowmass. The Aspen Airport (ASE, http://aspenairport.com/) is a short cab ride away. Many hotels run free vans back and forth. [The no-rental-car savings may make up the airfare difference compared to Denver. It is worth comparison shopping.]
Why these dates?
Lodging prices. Aspen lodging prices vary a lot between peak and non-peak times. We need to avoid the X-Games (28-31 January), Christmas (duh!), President’s Day week (February 13-21) and Martin Luther King Day weekend (January 16-18). Some properties have higher prices a few days around these as well. I have been getting emails from booking websites advertising half-off deals (as low as $109/night in Aspen) for our dates.
Air travel. Most of the Northeast has a school vacation week starting President’s Day. More and more parents are cheating and pulling their kids out early, so the crush has extended to the Thursday before. All those parents connecting bog down hubs in the rest of the country too. Since we are not insane, we do not want to travel then. Tuesday and Wednesday are usually the cheapest days to travel.
(Actual fares are going to bounce around between now and then, but frequent flyer miles are a good proxy for what they will be at their cheapest. For example, and American between BOS and ASE leaving Feb 1 or 2 is almost half as many miles as any other days that week.)
The vote. The vote specified the place and general time for this Gathering, between X-Games and President’s Day. I don’t want to abrogate that decision without a compelling reason.
Firm dates for planning. Slotting between X-Games and President’s Day only leaves a few days of wiggle room. I decided to slice through the wiggle so people can start making firm plans.
Not too long and not too short. Since the purpose is to ski with other people, we need to be there at the same time. So I decided not to add "bonus days". I will be skiing the posted dates, arriving the day before and leaving the day after. I'm guessing the peak attendance will be on the included weekend, but hope that a lot of people will be there for the whole thing.
Midweek to Midweek. I struggled with this one a little. I have always done mid-to-mid trips, but I know some people prefer weekend-to-weekend to better match work patterns. With the X-Games a week later than last year, that really was not an option. I have also had people suggest condos prefer Saturday to Saturday rentals, but in my experience this is a non-issue. When I was shopping, I saw minimum stay requirements but no starting-day requirements.
The Snow. According to Tony Crocker's summary assessment (http://bestsnow.net/colohist.htm), mid January and February are both good bets for snow, but February is slightly better.
What do I want to do differently from past Gatherings?
Not much. Past Gathermeisters have done a wonderful job. I do want to try a few things to encourage more mixing, but we can talk about that later.
Meeting places and times will be detailed later in the summer, as will which mountain on which day. We want to retain some flexibility, because (for example) climbing Highlands Bowl in bad visibility is a waste.
Why should you come
Because you are going to have a fantastic time! I encourage everyone, advanced skiers and intermediates, old hands and first-timers, to attend.
Daily Agenda (added Jan 2016)
Wed 2/3 Ajax
Th 2/4 Snowmass. I'll check conditions in the morning (and ski Possible) and do the INT-cirque adventure in the afternoon
PUGSKI Party at Zane's Tavern at Snowmass Mall 4:30
Fri 2/5 Highlands with Bowl hike, subject to visibility
Sat 2/6 Ajax. Evening Vote for 2017 venue, etc. Probably at combined party & vote at Gathermeister's condo.
Sun 2/7 Highlands, weather alternate for Bowl hike. If we did the hike on the primary day, we will ski the other great (non-hiking) terrain there.
Mon 2/8 Snowmass
Tue 2/9 TBD
The vote for 2017 will be Saturday. It will probably be at a potluck dinner/party at my condo. Address will be shared via PM or in person. Please do NOT post it publicly. I am near the Snowmass base, which has good bus service. Parking in the base garage is free after 5 pm.
Edited by Gathermeister - 1/22/16 at 3:22pm